AS a toddler, Keith Bennett would be taken to Fulwell fire station, where he would run around the yard.
His father and two uncles were firefighters at the station and dedicated to their jobs.
Today, reluctantly, Keith retires from Fulwell after serving for 33 years with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
Friends from the station’s Red Watch gathered to say their goodbyes to a colleague who has devoted his career to helping others.
It almost seemed inevitable that Keith, now 52, would join the fire service.
He said: “My uncles used to live in the houses at Fulwell station and I can remember going there as a toddler.
“My dad, Tom, was also a firefighter when it was called just Sunderland Fire Brigade. I even had aunts who were in the Auxiliary Fire Service.
“I suppose it was because of dad that I became a firefighter, it was just something that was in our family.”
Keith is disappointed he will not match – or surpass – the 36 years his father spent fighting fires. Health problems are forcing him to retire early.
Keith, who lives in Washington with wife Janet, 57, added: “This has all happened just recently so I haven’t really had time to think about what I’m going to do with myself.”
However, he is certain he will miss the camerarderie of the lads on Red Watch.
He added: “They are a great bunch and it’s been fantastic.
“Looking back over the years, so many different things have happened.
“The tanker blaze on Newcastle Road in 1992 particularly stands out as one of the more interesting jobs we’ve been called to.”
Fire crews from Fulwell spent hours tackling flames when the tanker exploded on Wednesday, August 26, 1992.
Keith, who went to Monkwearmouth School, said: “They even based an episode of London’s Burning on that – although it was nothing like it.”